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12 Day Itinerary

I'm in the early stages of planning my 1st trip to Ireland. Trying to keep it around 2 weeks in duration but flexible. I will be renting a car and mostly interested in driving around seeing the beautiful scenery, exploring the small towns, visiting pubs, and meeting the Irish people. Please review my tentative itinerary below and offer any suggestions you might have, especially about length of stays at each stop:
1. Arrive in Dublin for 2nights
2. Doolin 2 nights
3. Dingle 2 nights
4. Kenmare 2 nights
5. Kinsale 2 nights
6. Glendalough 1 night
7. Depart for home from Dublin

Posted by
17 posts

Lots of driving - you'll be spending a half day going from location to location leaving little time to enjoy the areas you are going to. Ireland is bigger than you think. Best to select a couple of spots and concentrate there. Then come back for again and see what you missed first time around.

Posted by
631 posts

It IS a lot of driving and changing lodgings but I have to say that driving wasn’t unpleasant for me unless it was in the dark. If traveling when daylight is shorter, I might not choose to move so much. But if you are going when you have longer days, it should be fine as long as you like to drive. The only part that might make me nervous is staying in Glendalough the night before your flight, but that depends on when your flight is. Remember it will take time to return your car - and traffic can be slow going back toward Dublin, depending on time of day.

Posted by
3205 posts

We’ve had 2 trips to Ireland, one in the southwest (by bicycle), and one following an arc around the northern half (by car). So I can’t offer direct suggestions about some of your locations. But avoiding lots of 1-night stands is a great idea, limiting unpacking and repacking every day.

On the bike trip, we’d taken a ferry out to Inishmor island for 1 night (I know, just 1 night and parts of 2 days), then arrived by ferry back to the mainland, just south of Doolin. We pedaled right past Doolin, to a B&B in Lisdoonvarna, just up the hill. If Doolin’s on your agenda for traditional Irish music on pubs, that may be available there, but Dingle really offers a wealth of trad music. Dingle would easily be a good place for a 3rd night, if you can fit it into your schedule.

And are you including seeing the awesome Cliffs of Moher, while you’re in the general Doolin/Lisdoonvarna area? The stark Burren region, too, with its unique landscape and vegetation, and its Neolithic sights?

I don’t know what time of year you’re considering your trip, but it does rain in Ireland, and if you’re doing a lot of driving, some of the scenery might be getting viewed through your windshield wipers!

On our last trip, we landed at the Dublin airport, and immediately hopped on a bus, heading for Galway on the west side of the country. That gave a chance to see scenery and nap a bit, fending off jet lag, while someone else did the initial driving. We rented our car the next day, and eventually turned it in in Dublin, saving the big city for the final days at the end of the trip, rather than staying in Dublin at the outset. Saving Dublin for the end worked well for us.

Posted by
378 posts

It looks like you plan to drive both the Dingle and Kerry peninsulas. Personally, I would choose one or the other which would give you more time to explore that peninsula more closely and leisurely. Alternatively you could stay at a town midway between the two and take day trips to each area. Castlemaine or Killorglin could be worth looking into. I assume you are traveling on a US passport and will be returning to the US. Remember that you clear US immigration upon departure from Ireland. So you need to be at the airport at least 3 hours ahead of time.

Posted by
1701 posts

It is indeed a lot of driving but as a single traveler (which I gather you are) you'll be able to set your own pace for your introductory trip around the island so it should be manageable.
My suggestion would be to consider reversing your route, ie start by heading south from Dublin and visiting Glendalough in the early AM of day 3, and then proceeding on towards Kinsale and then around clockwise back to Dublin. For info, the airport car rental concessions open early - around 5:30 in most cases, so you could get a very early start indeed and time it to arrive at Glendalough well before the tour buses and the crowds start to roll in at 9:30. The monastic site itself is always open (it's the visitor center that opens at 9:30) so you'd be able to enjoy strolling around at your leisure, take your photos, and still be able to make it to Kinsale in time for a pint. If you're especially ambitious and the weather cooperates you could get there via the Old Military Road down thru the Sally Gap ... one of the more scenic drives in Ireland (which is saying plenty).
I second the idea of finding a place along the stretch between Castlemaine and Glenbeigh to use as a base for a few nights - would be cental for exploring the Dingle Peninsula and the ROK, especially the very scenic Skellig Ring Road and the Gap of Dunloe.
Modifying your route would mean that you'd be driving from Doolin back to Dublin. As others have suggested you'd be well advised to be back in Dublin the night before your flight in order to remove any potential drama on getaway day, especially if your flight is in the morning.

Posted by
42 posts

This is probably a little contrarian, but we've made three trips to Ireland (so far). The first trip (1995) was six one-night stays plus Doolin (two-night), and was totally without reservations or advance planning. The second trip (2016) was five one-night stays and six nights cruising the Shannon, and trip three (2019) was twelve one-nighters plus three nights in Dublin. Our fourth trip will be 3-2-1-2 since Scotland is our real target (it will be seven 2-day stays).

I don't like the daily search for the B&B or the suitcase living, but I find driving to be fun, and the fast pace lets you see as much as possible. We don't travel for relaxation, but for seeing new things. Frankly, when we get home, we're exhausted. Even though we're seniors, we travel with just carry-ons, so the B&B dance isn't that bad.

I've usually done lots of homework beforehand, which makes the trip go pretty smoothly. Our last trip was actually planned with a spreadsheet with 15 minute precision. In two weeks, we only missed a few things we hoped to see.

I should add that we totally avoid places that attract the tour buses and always pick lodging in walking distance of the pubs. Always been there in Apr to early Jun and weather was great and crowds were thin(ner).

For example, the Cliffs of Kerry are very comparable to the Cliffs or Moher, but there's no crowd. Similarly, I'd always prefer Carrowkeel by ourselves over Newgrange with the mob (although we've been to both).

Posted by
25 posts

Thanks a lot for all of your great tips and insights. Your suggestions will be very helpful as I try to fine tune my travel plans. I do think you are all correct about getting back to Dublin the night before we catch our plane back to the states.
Travelmom, like you I too don't mind the driving but haven't ever driven in Ireland. I will be traveling the 1st two weeks in September so days should still be fairly long. I will be getting a car with an automatic. I will have my wife with me to help navigate and I plan on going slow and stopping a lot.
Robert I have thought about reversing my direction of travel as you suggested.
Also instead of picking a central location between Dingle and ROK I could add a night at both Dingle and Kenmare.
Thanks again for all of your help.

Posted by
448 posts

Suggest you leave directly from the airport and drive to Doolin - spend your last nights in Dublin (I would do 3 nights). We spent 3 nights in Doolin because we also took a day trip to the Aran Islands (great). Even though I haven't been to any of your other destinations, I would consider doing either Dingle or Kenmare thus giving you less driving/moving and more time. I'm guessing the Dingle Peninsula and Ring of Kerry will be similar experiences.

Posted by
1701 posts

"I could add a night at both Dingle and Kenmare. "
Sure, that'll work too.
If you do add the extra night in Kenmare consider a drive around the very scenic Beara Peninsula - much less crowded than Killarney or the ROK. There are some beautiful seascapes all along the coastal roads, and a drive up and over Healy Pass (the R574 on the map) would be a memorable experience. There's also an abandoned famine village near Glanmore Lake that's a short hike into a hidden valley. Can provide the directions if you're at all interested.

Posted by
25 posts

"There's also an abandoned famine village near Glanmore Lake that's a short hike into a hidden valley",
Robert this does sound like something I would be interested in.

Posted by
2020 posts

I think your plan is fine. We have done similar Ireland trips with short stays and lots of driving and have no regrets. On our last trip we concentrated on Northern Ireland and loved it as well as other areas.

Posted by
1701 posts

Actually, 2 nights (or one full day) in Dingle is usually plenty of time to satisfy your curiosity about the place, especially for an introductory trip such as yours. Unless you plan to use the extra day for an excursion out to the Blaskets you might be better off adding the discretionary day somewhere else ... Doolin would be my choice in order to permit a day trip out to one of the Aran Islands. The return ferry in the late afternoon has the added attraction of beautiful views of the Cliffs at sunset.

Posted by
42 posts

I'll second the Aran idea, but I think you might consider going from Dublin to Rossaveal (west of Galway) and taking the bigger ferry to InishMor, and spend the night. You can bicycle the entire island the next day and get an afternoon ferry in time to get to Doolin. When we spent the night at a B&B in Kilronan, the proprietor would not take a reservation if we were coming from Doolin, insisting that the weather cancellations were much more frequent. The Rossaveal ferry is half the time, but you miss the cliffs. Kilronan mutates at night when the day-visitors leave.

We enjoyed Doolin on our first trip, but decided it was too "touristy" for our style. Reliable music, but Galway has more music.

Our next short trip is Dublin(3)-Dingle(2)-Doolin(1)-Galway(2), on our way to 2 weeks in Scotland, but we're music addicts. The Doolin stop is just to shorten the drive and take a boat trip to the Cliffs, after skipping them the previous three trips.

Depending on where you're flying from and/or if you're going anywhere else, I'd add a few more days. I hate air travel enough to try to do longer stays.

Posted by
25 posts

Still fine tuning my itinerary and took several people's advice and added a night in Dublin at the end of our trip and also added a night in Kenmare to allow time to tour the Beara peninsula. I am still considering reversing my direction of travel. Please look over the 2 options below and give me any thoughts.
1. Arrive in Dublin for 2nights
2. Doolin 2 nights
3. Dingle 2 nights
4. Kenmare 3 nights
5. Kinsale 2 nights
6. Glendalough 1 night
7. Dublin 1 night

  1. Arrive in Dublin for 2nights
  2. Kinsale 2 nights
  3. Kenmare 3 nights
  4. Dingle 2 nights
  5. Doolin 2 nights
  6. Dublin 1 night
Posted by
1701 posts

My suggestion would be option #2 just so you can stop by Glendalough on your way to Kinsale ... as previously stated. Except for that either itinerary will work fine. I wouldn't agonize over this too much - it'll be great no matter which direction you go.
For info, your option #1 shows 13 nights versus the 12 for option #2 - an oversight I assume.

Posted by
25 posts

Thanks Robert. I am leaning towards #2 as well. I did cut the night out in Glendalough on that route as I didn't feel it was needed.

Posted by
1827 posts

Have you thought of arriving in Dublin staying there perhaps two nights without the car then getting a car and heading westward and returning home from Shannon that would save you a return trip to Dublin, the driving is really not bad but just be certain to add about 25% more to your drive time, we are been there many times and just can't get enough of Ireland!!! Enjoy

Posted by
25 posts

Gail, I did think about flying into Dublin and departing from Shannon but it seemed as though the airfare was going to be a lot more expensive that way. Might make the car rental higher also. It would be nice not having to drive back to Dublin.

Posted by
448 posts

I had a somewhat similar itinerary and have a couple of suggestions. If you are in Doolin on a night when the Doolin Music House has a gathering be sure to take it in. Lots of fun, early in the evening thus you can hit the pubs for more music later tht evening. Much of the pub music starts 9ish, we were on top of the players at O'Connor's Pub, a 3 minute walk from our B&B. Get a seat early if possible. https://www.doolinmusichouse.com/ When in Kenmare take a days break from driving (looks like you will welcome it) by hiring Paul Brown for a driving private tour of the Ring of Kerry. He picked us up a our B&B and his tour was awesome. http://www.kenmaretaxitours.com/home.html Paul also helped us plan a self drive for the Beara Peninsula and it was well planned and was a good half day or longer while we were staying in Kenmare. Beara is more laid back than RofK and as pretty IMO. In Dingle we took in a Gaelic Football game, local young adults playing another county's team and it was a blast and we made some great friends in the stands with locals who loved explaining the game. You can stroll to the field if a game is on. We did Doolin, Dingle, Kenmare, and Cong and did exactly what you describe as your interests. We went to Cong for the Hawkwalk at the castle but music was hard to find up there. Dublin was ok and unique but for us the small western towns were great. We also hired Denis Ryan for a half day tour out from Dingle and he was good, but don't balk on Paul Brown's tour, it ws a blast! This is a pretty good online roadmap to help with your planning. https://www.theaa.ie/routes/#

Posted by
25 posts

Jarrardd thanks for all of the great info. I am definitely going to check out the Paul Brown tour.